Takun J – Hip-Co in Liberia

Takun J is Liberia’s premier Hip-Co artist. In terms of musical genre, Hip-Co (Co as in short for colloquial) is uniquely Liberian. In short, it’s music of the vernacular, the way people speak and relate to each other. Hip-Co evolved in the 1980s and has always been socially & politically bent. In the ‘90s it continued to develop through the civil wars, and today stands as a definitive mark of Liberian culture. Takun J has climbed his way to the top of the scene and is widely know both here and abroad. Linguistically, he sets the tone for street talk in Monrovia. The slang he creates in his songs is picked up by the youth, who rapidly incorporate it into their everyday jive.

Takun’s music reflects the climate of Liberian society and his songs expose the reality of a flawed and corrupt system of governance. His song “The Police” led to his arrest and brutal beating at the hands of those he dared to criticize. If you want to find Takun J, take a trip down to Carry street, Monrovia’s hub for local artists and musicians. His abode, a small upstairs room above the bar, plays host to crowded gatherings throughout the year. Lately Takun J has been collaborating with Nasseman, Liberia’s leading Reggae star. Nasseman’s forthcoming album, “Redemption Time” features their collaborative track ,“Down in Africa”, an anthem of social struggle and corruption endemic in the continent.

In our current phase of training for the Together Liberia project, participants have been focusing on telling stories about artists and musicians in Monrovia. One of our participants, Ansu, chose to do a piece on Takun J. I spent the day with him yesterday as he conducted interviews and took photographs that he will now use to produce visual, audio, and text based pieces.

About Christopher Giamo

Chris Giamo is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, and is currently completing his MA in Documentary Film and History at Syracuse University . He has a background in cultural anthropology, human rights, South Asian studies, and Hindi language. He recently completed a documentary on Kashmir, India which was shot during the summer of 2010. The film, In Shopian, covers the case of a double murder and documents the volatile socio-political upheaval in the capital of Srinagar. He has also conducted extensive fieldwork within Sikh diaspora communities in Canada and England. His film Black Days/Blue Star recounts the story of a Sikh refugee who escaped the Indian Army’s attack on the Golden Temple in June, 1984. Besides human rights documentaries, Chris has made a number of independent art films. He currently resides in an attic by the sea in Portland, Maine.